Need a jolt of activity? Appeal to narcissism.

by Matt on April 7, 2010

in Online Communities

Social Media (and it’s parent buzzword “Web 2.0″) proves one thing: the most powerful force on the internet is narcissism. Well, and cats. Whether it’s a tweet, a blog or a Facebook status update, people love to talk about themselves. And when other people talk about them, they love it even more.

Is your online community hurting for activity? Then it’s time to stroke some egos. Here are 5 ways to turn everyone into frothing narcissists.

1) End of the Year Awards

Is it December? Good. Start your annual award thread. It’s not December? Then make some other excuse. With a good mix of categories, you’ll have a fun forum event that gets everyone involved in complimenting each other.

Get your community voting on as much as possible. Ask for categories and accept both the sensible and the silly. Once the categories are set, have a nomination period. And once the nominees are filtered down, begin final voting.

Possible forum award categories:

  • Most helpful – who’s always the first to help a newbie?
  • Smartest member – who always kicks your ass in forum debates?
  • Spamtastic – but Matt! Spamming is against the rules! Yes, but every community has that overenthusiastic member who is online 24/7 and answers every post, without violating the rules. Make them smile.
  • Sexiest mod – again, don’t take it too seriously. There’s a line between having fun and flouting your own rules. So long as you can enforce that line, this is always a popular category.
  • Member of the year – “Best in Show,” only with less tail wagging and drooling. Ok, maybe just less tail wagging.

Forum awards are a fun way to get your community to reward your best posters. But! Do not give actual prizes. This is about social recognition, which is much more powerful. The more you pay to forum award winners, the cheaper the award itself.

2) Call your users a bunch of dogs

You’ve seen those infernal Facebook quizzes. What animal are you? What Apple product are you? What toenail clipper are you? “What ____ are you” games are annoying in your feed, but are always a hit on message boards.

Create a thread where you compare 10-20 of your top, most beloved members to anything. Animals, Pokemon, household appliances, whatever. Make sure you’re saying good things about them – or at the very least, giving them a loving punch to the shoulder. The goal is to get everyone agreeing, disagreeing and laughing. More importantly, you want them making more comparisons. End the post with “what ____ are you?” Invite everyone to keep the game going.

3) Spotlight user generated content

This holds doubly true if you run a community focused on said user generated content. But even if you don’t, there are things you can do to make a member feel awesome. For example, if you manage a forum, start a “weekly sticky”, which sticks a new thread at the top. This has the added benefit of praising good behavior. It sets an example that for what a “good thread” is.

More random ways to spotlight a member:

  • Create a “Member of the Month” award
  • Promote fan-made artwork to the front page
  • Feature a user blog post in the site news
  • Supply commentary to an online gaming match

Use these spotlights to give your users something to aspire to. Think of it as an “Employee of the Month” program, only less soul crushing.

4) Trophies, achievements and badges

Foursquare and Gowalla leverage this to great effect. Xbox Live discovered that achievements excite both the completionist and the casual player. In some ways it’s obvious, but there are still communities out there that don’t have any kind of reputation metric whatsoever.

These virtual trinkets turn your community into a powerful Skinner Machine. So long as they are a publicly visible status symbol, they will create excitement. (Remember: the whole point of virtual goods is to look awesome in front of your friends.)

5) Give your members cameos

Admit it. You’ve done it. You’ve gone into a thread and done a Ctrl-F for your name, just to see if you were mentioned. Users love to be mentioned by name. Find some way to incorporate a popular user into your content. The more in-jokes and references you can cram in, the healthier your community. Just don’t let all of your content become self-referential. The goal is occasional ego indulgence, not ego masturbation.

A few ways to give a community member a cameo:

If you do it right, then many members you include will become evangelists. They’ll feel like they “own” a piece of your community. Which is a good thing.

The power of a grassroots gaming community is that your members are the ones spreading the word. Get them involved by stroking their egos, and your community will reap the benefits.

Photo credit: Marina(im.back)

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  • http://fbindie.posterous.com/ Facebook Indie Games

    When I started tweeting, I wanted to get follows and retweets. I tried to figure out what would get me RT'd and followed by influential people.

    The best one I found was “their own twitter ID”. So I started retweeting, saying “via” a lot and so on. Worked quite well I think. Should do it more often.

  • http://www.wavedash.net/ Matt

    That's brilliant. And I'm stealing it immediately 😉

    Reminds me of the old networking saying: “the most beautiful sound in the world is your own name.”

  • http://fbindie.posterous.com/ Facebook Indie Games

    When I started tweeting, I wanted to get follows and retweets. I tried to figure out what would get me RT'd and followed by influential people.

    The best one I found was “their own twitter ID”. So I started retweeting, saying “via” a lot and so on. Worked quite well I think. Should do it more often.

  • http://www.wavedash.net/ Matt

    That's brilliant. And I'm stealing it immediately 😉

    Reminds me of the old networking saying: “the most beautiful sound in the world is your own name.”

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  • http://twitter.com/supereric Eric Suesz

    Great stuff. Kind of wish I was part of your community. Sounds like fun.

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    . Is your online community hurting for activity? Then it’s time to stroke some egos. Here are 5 ways to turn everyone into frothing …

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